Stuart Ringholt at IMA@Ksubi
Preview by Tahnee Robinson
There’s something self-conscious about a gallery space above a designer jeans store, but that seems to work here; Stuart Ringholt’s exhibition seems preoccupied with dislocation between head and body. The artist is known for his work exploring our mental health and embarrassment (and the fear thereof). The invitation to the launch made sure to specify that as attendees we would not be required to go nude — this was of some relief, as the exhibition blurb also informed us that Ringholt has been known to lead gallery tours naked, requiring the audience to undress as well.
In the video piece William Street, Ringholt rides up and down in a public elevator. While he shares the elevator with others he remains quiet and unobtrusive, but when he is alone he lets out a gasping groan, leaning forward and extending his tongue. Queried by a launch audience member as to his inspiration for the piece, Ringholt enthuses at length on a mystic technique he read about once, called “sunning the tongue”. Public spaces such as office buildings, he feels, should have rooms built in where people can be alone, to do what they want; in the absence of these, elevators can become that private space where you have a brief, often interrupted, moment of privacy. When asked why he would choose to “sun his tongue” inside, Ringholt shrugs and jokes, “I have lots of problems. I should be doing this outside.”
The rest of the exhibition is made up of a series of collages. Using appropriated images from remaindered photography books, Ringholt carefully cuts out the heads of his subjects and places them on the shoulders of others. One guest points out, quite rightly, that the heads and bodies often aren’t chosen to emphasise the disjunction; instead the effect is more subtly surreal. The heads aren’t absurdly mismatched — they’re just not quite right. Ringholt says he sees the process as a very positive one, that the idea of the intercut photographs evokes in him the idea of bringing something of someone else into you.
Eventually I manage to ask the artist why he is preoccupied with the idea of embarrassment. It’s not a very good question, but I’m genuinely interested. He tells me a story about going to a party and needing to take a piss. Finding the toilet, he settles in to take a slash and suddenly there’s piss everywhere but in the bowl. Someone has laid newspaper all over the floor, so he can’t even clean it up. Close inspection reveals a hair stuck across the head of his penis. The experience was horrifying, but Ringholt found catharsis in the process of explaining it to people. When recounting his mortification to others they found it hilarious, which poses the question, “Why am I embarrassed — and other people laugh?”
STUART RINGHOLT’s exhibition is showing at IMA@Ksubi until Sep 6, 2/30 James Street, New Farm. Ringholt is represented by Milani Gallery, 54 Logan Road, Woolloongabba.
TAHNEE ROBINSON is a Brisbane-based writer. She is OSP’s visual arts, film and fashion editor.